One in six UK adults suffering with ‘eco-anxiety’, study suggests

12th September 2023

Almost half of UK adults feel worse about the climate crisis due to government policy, with one in six suffering with ‘eco-anxiety’, new research suggests.

The study of 2,000 adults also found that the proportion experiencing eco-anxiety – defined as "a chronic fear of environmental doom" – rises to 33% among 18-34 year-olds, with 29% saying they have sought help from a counsellor, therapist or medical professional for the condition.

This comes after a period of extreme weather events this year, including record-breaking heatwaves and wildfires in Southern Europe and North America.

Overall, the study found that 51% of adults feel a sense of grief about what is happening to nature and the planet, with 48% saying that government inaction on climate issues makes them feel worse about the crisis.

“From concern about increasing wildfire and extreme flooding, to grief about declining wildlife, there are huge worries for people to contemplate about the future of our planet – at a time when living costs are also on the minds of many,” said Bevis Watts, chief executive of Triodos Bank UK, which commissioned the research.

“COP28 later this year must deliver an acceleration in action at a global level, prioritising the phasing out of fossil fuels and increasing financial support for a fair, low-carbon future. Only a truly collective effort can turn current anxiety about the future into something more hopeful.”

Of the 2,000 adults studied, 31% admitted to feeling guilty about their own emissions and environmental impact, however, around 60% said that rising food and living costs are more of an immediate worry to them.

For younger people, these conflicting pressures about the future are especially strong, with 66% saying it is hard to focus on the climate crisis when they are worried about day-to-day costs, and 65% being more concerned about rising rent and mortgage costs.

Despite this, 75% of adults say they have taken action to reduce their environmental impact, most commonly by using less single-use plastic, changing their diet to eat less meat, and switching to a renewable energy supplier.

The top five actions people are taking to feel less anxious about the climate crisis are:

  • Spending time outdoors / in nature (40%)
  • Reading positive news stories (34%)
  • Making changes to my lifestyle to be more environmentally friendly (32%)
  • Learning more about how to be more environmentally friendly (28%)
  • Taking a break from reading the news (25%)

Sana Yusef, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, commented: “It’s not surprising that so many of us – particularly young people – are feeling worried about the future and the dual threats of the cost of living and climate crisis.

“We urgently need our leaders to act on the fair, green solutions that will bring down our bills and the harmful emissions that cause climate change.”

TRANSFORM is hosting a session on ‘eco-anxiety to eco-action’ at IEMA Connect 2023 on Thursday 21 September from 10am to 11am. Register here.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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